Cropping vs. Floating Artwork When Using Matboard

Written by Joely Rogers

Here we explain the difference between “cropping”, also known as overlapping and “floating” artwork when using a mat board. Many customers have seen both options when viewing other people’s art, but are unsure what application will work best for their own images.

When matting artwork, the primary measurement is the window opening size, which is the visible area of the image created by the hole cut into the mat board.

There are two ways to mat an image:

  1. You can crop it: The mat board overlaps the image.
  2. You can float it: The window opening size of the mat board is larger than the artwork size.

Cropping is the most common way to mat artwork. Floating is often used when the artist’s signature is below the image, or if the paper has attractive edges (e.g. hand- torn edges) that you’d like to leave exposed.

What is cropping?

Un-matted Image with White BorderUn-matted Image with White Border

Matted Cropped ImageMatted Cropped Image

Cropping is the practice of cutting a mat window opening slightly smaller than the artwork so that the image’s edges will be concealed and properly contained within the mat board. This is done to cover unattractive edges, or, if it’s a giclee print, to cover the white border around the image. Also, cropping has its own aesthetic value; it can remove unwanted detail and accentuate the subject matter.

The amount of cropping usually depends on the framer. At Frame Destination, our mat window openings are minimally cropped to provide the most exposure for your art: popular artwork sizes such as 18”x 24” and smaller are cropped 1/8” on all four sides, while artwork measuring larger than 18”x 24” are cropped 1/4” on all four sides.

By cropping the larger sizes more, there is less chance that the generally heavier artwork breaks free of the mounting tape and/or tissue and escapes the window opening. For custom mat windows, you choose the amount of cropping you want.
On cropped images the mount board is unseen, so foam board is acceptable to use as a backer.

What is floating?

Floating is the exact opposite of cropping. It is a mounting technique where the edges of the artwork are left uncovered. To float a piece of art inside a mat window, the opening is cut larger than the image. As stated above, art is floated to preserve an artist’s signature, especially if it’s near the edge, or to display paper with eye-catching or unusual edges.

Floating image

The amount of floating depends on your reason for using this technique. Are you floating the artwork to preserve the artist’s signature? If so, then a minimal amount, such as 1/4" or less, is least likely to detract from the art. If you are floating to show off some cool deckled edges, between 1/4” and 1” is a good size range.

With regards to mount board, foam board is not the most appropriate choice when floating. Many artists use uncut mat board that is either the same color or complements the window mat board. If you are framing an image without a window mat, however, float-mounting on a piece of black or white foam core can be a clean, elegant way to display the image.

Matted Floating Image with Matching Mount Board

Matted Floating Image with Matching Mount Board

If you have any questions about cropping or floating artwork, please feel free to contact us. We are here to help!

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